One afternoon in the summer of 1993 I left the press area of the stands at Leopardstown feeling saddened by what I had just seen. A two-year-old filly I'd liked in the parade ring pulled-up, clearly badly injured, in the Listed Rochestown Stakes – her fourth start - and the end result for her seemed inevitable.
Scroll on a year and a half later, to my first morning as a student on the Irish National Stud's famous management course, a cold January day made warmer by what, or rather who I found in the farm's Kildare Yard barn.
The foreman misunderstood my surprise and my question “do you mean the Bluebird filly?” when she gave me the name of the next mare I was to bring out to the teaser, and it was over the next few weeks that I learned what an amazing individual their homebred chestnut Ridge Pool was.
Her injury at Leopardstown was, as it looked from the stands, to her pelvis, but thanks to her wonderful temperament and the dedication of the team at the stud, she made a full recovery after a lengthy period of convalescence that included some considerable restrictions temporarily placed on her ability to move about.
'Ridgey', the sweet-natured live model for practicals on tacking and bandaging, the frequent depositor of partially chewed feed in my jacket pocket – a garment she appeared to favour as an ideal scratching tool – was among the favourites of all of the horses with whom I've worked, and although she is long gone now, she left a lasting impression, both on me and on the racing scene.
Ridge Pool's only sibling was the stakes-placed nine-time winner Captain Le Saux (by Persian Heights), and she had just three foals of her own, but the last of them was Caumshinaun (by Indian Ridge), the top-rated older mare in Ireland in 2001.
That chestnut won five times for the Dermot Weld stable, including the Listed Platinum Stakes over a mile at Cork, and went on to become a prolific producer at stud.
Her finest hour in that role came in 2006 when her daughter Nightime (by Galileo), who was owned and bred by the late Marguerite Weld, ran away with the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, and she became the grandam of a top-level star when Zhukova (by Fastnet Rock) trounced the boys with a six-length victory in the recent Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park.
Zhukova, who has also won the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes, Group 3 Kilternan Stakes and three listed contests for the Weld stable, is a daughter of Nightime.
She is reportedly being aimed at several major targets in 2017, including the Group 1 Qipco Irish Champion Stakes and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and with the opportunities she has earned and will be afforded at stud, she could extend the family's Group 1 record to at least one more generation.